Leighton put his hand on my friend’s knee and encouraged him; my friend had just broken into warranted tears as the rest of us watched. At our denomination’s general assembly, pastors under 40 gathered to meet this man, evangelist, father, husband, and soon-to-be-friend. He asked us questions that I cannot remember. We went in a circle, and when my friend broke down Leighton stopped the meeting, with his silence and kind sigh, and focused on my friend. He asked him a question or two. He spoke words of light and life, as gentle and profound as I have ever heard, and he paused. In so doing, he helped us pause. We who know how to enter a hospital room but are uncomfortable when one of our brothers is so honest about the struggles of the pastor’s life. Leighton paused. And now I know that he was listening – to my friend and his tears, and to the Holy Spirit.
So when my old mentor put my name in as a reader of this book I accepted. None of the officials know that I have never finished one of these on time or written a blog about them read by more than 10 folks (I’m now 1 for 6 in pre-reading a book before publication). I finished A Life of Listening in a week and the reason is that it is easy to read – though sometimes laughter and tears get in the way. And I have never said or written that about a book before – Christian or non, fiction or essay. I laughed a bit (not a lot, but his subtle humor is fantastic). I wept a bit (not a lot because the medium speed of the book kept me from sinking into the sad season).
Initially, some of the travel and celebrity aspects of an itinerant evangelist weren’t interesting to me. But Leighton presents these things as they happened – neither hiding his life nor holding it up and asking it to shine brighter than it does.
There is only one other Christian author I can read more than one chapter of at a time, and I’m a 42 year old pastor who reads a lot. A Life of Listening flows delightfully as Leighton tells about listening to, and learning to listen to, the Holy Spirit as he moves through life amidst many other strong and pushy voices.
I too long to discern the voice of the Spirit amidst the many competing voices on Twitter, in my family, and certainly in my congregation. Leighton’s book calmed me and helped me, through the lens of his life, to discern this voice. I highly recommend A Life of Listening for a number of reasons. One, it is as readable of a book as I have come across in a long, long time. Two, this is what followers of Jesus do – we discern the voice of the Spirit amidst the chaos and detritus of the fall and our limits – and Leighton is a terrific partner in this travel. Three, it drew me to prayer that heals the wounds of some of those old voices. And finally, I know that this man’s life and writing match up – which leads me to want to learn from him.